Thin, bubbly, locavore pizzas are the soul of this operation, helmed by husband-and-wife team Francine Stephens and Andrew Feinberg (Savoy). A sausage-and-cheese pie isn’t just a cravings-sater—it’s a work of art. The chewy, charred pizza, with coins of funky house-cured meat, buffalo mozzarella and fragrant Parmesan cheeses, a sauce that’s so sweet it reminds you that tomatoes are fruit, plus a drizzle of olive oil, is among the city’s best. Note: The place is popular, and they don’t take reservations.
Bringing pizza back to its preindustrial origins, the team behind Wild Rise eschews consistent one-strain commercial yeast for wild yeast—a collection of strains of the microorganisms, imported from Campagnia—to leaven its dough. The diversified yeast produces more complex flavor in these funky pies, which are dolled up with milky buffalo mozzarella, sweet Italian plum tomato sauce and fragrant torn basil, then baked in a custom-built, steel-insulated cylindrical oven. The springy char-kissed crust boasts deep earthy and tangy notes that stand up to the bold flavors of the spot's primo ingredients—ultra-porky pepperoni and pungent hard-neck garlic. Choose from winners like marinara, Margherita, cremini with pepperoni, and shiitake and garlic.
Pie-maker Mathieu Palombino is a born-and-bred Belgian, yet his pizza pantry hits every Neapolitan note. His imported flour is of the doppio zero variety, while the tomatoes he uses are San Marzano, canned at the peak of ripeness. His cheese of choice is either tangy buffalo mozzarella or fior di latte, which is house-made at Motorino each morning. Then there’s the oven, a bell-shaped, ceramic-floored colossus that’s fed a combination of cherry, oak, birch and hickory woods and fired up to 900 degrees—each pie requires about one minute inside. That fancy flour produces a bubbly crust and the sauce more than holds its own: The DOP tomatoes come across bright and tart, an ideal foil to the dose of grassy olive oil and hit of musty pecorino that anoints each pie just before it’s served. Stick to one of the Margheritas to get the most out of the tangy buffalo mozzarella or the milder fior di latte. Motorino strays from the classics with seasonally inspired pies, including a version topped with brussels sprouts and speck.
Pizzaiolo Giulio Adriani’s pies boast all the vaunted Neapolitan bona fides: Caputo 00 flour, San Marzano tomatoes and a blistered, pillowy crust. But his montanara, a flash-fried pie inspired by a version he grew up with in Naples, is the real star here. This nouveau round—puffy and golden with a kiss of tangy sauce, creamy mozzarella and torn basil—has earned its rightful place in Gotham’s pizza pantheon.
If anyone can claim to be an expert on Neapolitan pizza, it’s Kest’s Roberto Caporuscio: As president of the U.S. branch of the Associazione Pizzaiuoli Napoletani, he’s top dog for the training and certification of pizzaioli (a former dairy farmer and mozzarella maker, he’s also intimately familiar with that most essential cheese). In addition to all the hallmarks of the Neapolitan product—San Marzano tomatoes, doppio zero flour, scorching-hot wood-burning oven—Caporuscio uses a slow-speed mixer to work his dough. Then, he gently stretches it into a round with his hands, since it’s far too soft for tossing. Man, does he get it right. Puffed with warm pockets of steaming air, it’s tender yet resilient, stretching ever so slightly as you tear it with your hands. All over the golden surface is an even spotting of tiny black blisters, just enough to deliver that brick-oven sear, but not so much that any single bite tastes burnt. Whatever you put on it, from the classic Margherita toppings to butternut squash puree with smoked mozzarella, it’s as close to the platonic ideal as we’ve found.
Brooklyn’s pizza legacies are legion—from Grimaldi’s in Dumbo to Ditmas Park’s fabled Di Fara. To this noble lineup add Lucali. The artisanal intent at the candlelit pizzeria is visible in the flour-dashed marble counter where the dough is punched and stretched, and in the brick oven from which it later emerges crisp and blistered. There are just two items on Lucali’s menu: pies and calzones, adorned with milky, elastic mozzarella and simple toppings like chewy rounds of pepperoni or slivers of artichoke. There’s no wine list, but the unobtrusive staff will happily extract a cork from your own bottle—Grimaldi’s could learn a thing or two.
While tourists bumble into Sbarro looking for a New York slice, pizza aficionados have been busy colonizing this pedigreed newcomer—a collaboration between Kesté’s talented Roberto Caporuscio and his decorated Naples mentor, Antonio Starita. Start with tasty bites like the frittatine (a deep-fried spaghetti cake oozing prosciutto cotto and béchamel sauce), before digging into the stellar wood-fired pies, which range from standards such as the Margherita to more creative constructions like the Rachetta, a racket-shaped pizza with a “handle” made of ricotta-stuffed dough. The main event, however, should be the habit-forming Montanara Starita, which gets a quick dip in the deep-fryer before hitting the oven to develop its puffy, golden crust. Topped with tomato sauce, basil and intensely smoky buffalo mozzarella, it’s a worthy new addition to the pantheon of classic New York
For more than 40 years, Italian-born Domenico De Marco has eaten a slice of his own pizza every day—a one-man quality-control outfit. You know he’s doing something right. His painstakingly crafted Neapolitan pies—cracker-thin crust with a pleasing char and a subtle Parmesan zing—are widely considered to be among the city’s best. Herbs growing in the window boxes flavor the sauce, and the dough is made fresh several times a day. The wait can feel interminable and the scruffy surroundings lack charm, but you didn’t trek to Midwood for the scenery.
Pizza hobbyist turned pro Paul Giannone produces truly original pies at this rustic Greenpoint eatery. The best pizzas here are mixed-media masterworks with gorgeously blackened crusts covered in crispy nooks and pillowy bubbles. The Honey Jones—a frequent special featuring honey from a Brooklyn beekeeper, Gorgonzola, mozzarella, cherries and wispy prosciutto—beautifully balances sweet and salty. The Rooftop Pie includes crunchy Brooklyn-grown kale, gorgeously singed atop mozzarella and sausage. Ask for a seat in the back for a view of the roaring oven—a custom-built, while-tiled dome that burns up to 1,000 degrees.
Sullivan Street Bakery owner Jim Lahey applies his bread-baking skills to the pizza trade at this unassuming north Chelsea pizzeria. The pies here live and die by Lahey’s famous no-knead pizza dough, which produces an exceptional firm-chewy crust blistered crisp and fast in a searing 900-degree oven. Individual, minimalist pies include the "flamb" (bchamel, Parmiggiano, buffalo mozzarella, caramelized onions and lardons) and the balanced Boscaiola with mushroom, sausage and a hot chili kick.
High Street on Hudson
At some restaurants, bread is an afterthought—baskets of chalky, uninspired dinner rolls shuffled out with chilled, foil-wrapped butter. This is not that restaurant, and it’s certainly not that bread. At High Street on Hudson, the day-to-night West Village sibling to chef Eli Kulp and Ellen Yin’s lauded Philadelphia restaurant, High Street on Market, head baker Alex Bois’s astonishing loaves—potent New World ryes, hearty German-style vollkornbrot, anadama miche enriched with molasses—obliterate the idea of bread as mere mealtime filler. Here, it is the meal. In the morning, it takes the form of pillowy, amply poppy-seeded potato rolls that come slathered with plucky gherkin mayo and padded with thick slices of sweet Lancaster bologna, horseradish-zapped Amish cheddar and fried red onions in the fan-favorite Hickory Town sandwich ($12); or it’s the buttery biscuit, popping with black pepper and subdued with sage, that hugs a cloud-soft egg, malted sausage and melty aged cheddar in the kitchen’s gorgeous send-up of a breakfast sandwich ($13). Want those breads at their most unadulterated? A cart strategically set by the venue’s entrance with street-facing windows offers Bois’s beautiful loaves for retail sale, as well as pastry chef Sam Kincaid’s equally great baked goods, from moist coffee-almond date cake ($3.50) to Market’s beloved country-ham–draped, gravy-filled red-eye danish ($4.50). Those roaring bread ovens, visible in the open kitchen, alone make High Street a dayt
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